Book Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

My Rating: 4 cupcakes

“We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”

I went into Just One Day expecting an adorable, fluffy romance for the majority of the book, culminating in a heartbreaking ending. And while elements of that expectation held true, I was pleasantly surprised by how much more there was to the story.

The romance between Allyson and Willem was sweet but short-lived. I don’t exactly believe in love at first sight, so it was initially difficult for me to believe the depth of the feelings that Allyson had for Willem – especially after knowing him for just one day. As the story progressed, however, Allyson and I both came to realize that her search for Willem was less about him and more about the person that he brought out in her.

At its core, Just One Day is about a journey to self-identity and independence. As an only child, Alyson has grown up following her controlling parent’s expectations and plans for her. An impromptu trip to Paris with Willem causes her to reinvent herself as “Lulu,” a girl who is less reserved and more adventurous, and who makes going back to being just Allyson incredibly difficult.

What I loved the most about Just One Day is that it takes a while for Allyson to find herself. We see a former honours student struggling in her post-secondary courses, a girl whose dreams don’t line up with her parents’ anymore, and someone who is losing touch with old friends while also struggling to make new ones. This experience captures the transition from high school to college perfectly: the friends that you make and the experiences that you have in these years help shape the person you are and the person you are to become.

Overall, Just One Day was a beautiful journey of self-discovery that made me want to travel to Paris with a copy of Just One Year as soon as I finished.

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